Weaning for good…?

Weaning is on my mind again. Since 18 months we’ve only nursed to sleep at nap and bedtime (with the exception of a couple of bad sicknesses that required extra comfort and hydration). Now Avery’s coming up on 22 months and I’m trying to find the motivation to wean her completely. It’s not that I mind nursing her to sleep still, but the occasional night where someone else puts her to bed is filled with tears and I feel terrible for stepping away for an evening. I figure if she’s fully weaned it’ll be hard for a short time and then infinitely better at bedtime.

But what if it’s not. What if it’s harder for the next however many months because she really, really loves nursing and she’s not ready to have it taken away? Ever since we cut out the 5am nursing when she’d cuddle back to sleep until 7, she has woken for the day at 5am. Unhappy.

And although she often sleeps completely through the night now (from bedtime till 5am), once or twice a week she’ll wake in the middle of the night and be unable to fall back to sleep, constantly asking for milk in a tired haze, whimpering when I say “no milk, let’s cuddle back to sleep.” She usually drinks her water when she’s turned down for milk, so I know she at least has that, but she would still benefit so much from being able to nurse back to sleep when that happens.

So why did we stop offering it through the night? Because night weaning really did change our nights for the better. When she knows milk is an option, she won’t settle for anything else. So I’m wondering, hoping, that completely weaning her will open doors for her in self-soothing (a term I use lightly, recognizing it’s not an ability that all young people should be expected to have). But it’s a hard transition to make, and this may seem silly, but I feel like I don’t know how to wean her. I don’t know how to stop doing something we’ve done for her entire life, and our entire lives together. I feel like it deserves more thought than just deciding to say “no more milk” one night and just expect her to get it and get over it.

Any advice from those who have fully weaned is welcome.

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Reflections on Night Weaning (at it again…)

*Photo from Pixabay.com

Night weaning is hard, even when it’s easy. Avery’s only nursing twice a day now, to sleep at nap and bedtime. It’s a big change from nursing all night long, snuggled beside me. We’re doing this to give her a gentle nudge toward sleep independence, but it’s just as much about me breaking my dependency on nursing away her every tear, every cough, every nightly stir. That has been such a wondrous gift, and although I’m theoretically ready to make the separation, my heart never will be.

I miss her as I lay in my bed and listen to her snore through the monitor. I feel jilted that I can’t lay with her all night anymore (part of our night weaning plan). I feel anxious waiting for her next wake up, wondering how difficult it’ll be to get her back to sleep, how many tears she’ll shed, how long the protest will last.

We have officially been one week without night nursing. I’m going to give it another couple of weeks before claiming that the transition period is over, but so far Avery’s doing a really good job learning to get back to sleep without nursing. Last time what broke us was her 3-5am insomnia, and her being sick. Both of those things are happening again, but we’re powering through this time. With every month older she gets, she can also understand better what’s expected of her at night, and that makes me feel better about it.

With the huge decrease in nursing comes a change in hormones. I’m getting some signs that I might be ovulating for the first time in almost 2 and a half years. Yes, you read that right – I haven’t had my period since we conceived Avery. It has been a wonderful, crampless, dry, and clean part of my life. I’m not eager for it to return.

One final reflection on night weaning: choosing to night wean was a decision I made for my marriage over my child. That alone has a lot of complex emotions associated with it. And while my wife is purely excited, I have to keep reminding myself that my marriage deserves to get priority over the child this once. It will all trickle down to benefit Avery in the long run. If my wife and I are a satisfied, happily married team, Avery will have a good relationship role model to look up to in her parents.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 24

It has been what, maybe a week since I started down the slow weaning road again? She’s already showing signs of self-weaning all the way. We cut out all nursing sessions during the day except for nursing to sleep for nap and bedtime, and we still allow nursing through the night. She has started to come off the boob at bedtime and roll over to be spooned the rest of the way to sleep. She has only been waking once or twice a night for milk. It’s amazing what cutting back on nursing does to her sleep….

The downside is that she only had a bit of milk from one side at bedtime today, and she didn’t have any at nap, so one side is full of hard lumps. We’re staying with family this weekend and I don’t have a pump to help me out, and I’m garbage at hand expressing. So I find myself actually hoping that she’ll wake up soon for a nighttime feed…

30 Days of Blogging, Day 18

Weaning from breastfeeding. I don’t think I’ve ever been so back and forth on a life decision as I have been with the decision of when and how to wean my daughter from breastfeeding. My blog reflects that with a mix of posts about weaning attempts and posts about how hardcore committed I am to breastfeeding.

Some days I feel like I’m ready to throw in the towel. Like I’m being tapped of my energy and life essence, or I’m touched out, or I just want to be able to have that second big glass of wine after a hard day. I look at my big, healthy toddler and I think, it’s just for me that we’re still nursing. She doesn’t need this anymore.

But then on other days I’m extremely defensive about any suggestion that we stop. I want to fight back against the stigma about toddlers breastfeeding. I shout from the rooftops that the WHO recommends breastfeeding until age 2. I want to remind everyone that breasts were made to feed children. I love how easy it is for me to soothe my cranky toddler, how easy it is for me to get her to sleep (a thousand times a night……), and how reassured I feel when she’s sick and she’s staying super hydrated because she loves nursing so much.

But today I’m flopping to the side of being ready to wean. My nipples have bloody little cuts on them from sharp fingernails and teeth. My wife can no longer sooth her through the night since we gave up night weaning. Last night she was attached to me for hours in the middle of the night and I felt a really uncomfortable surge of anxiety rushing through me. It was like restless leg syndrome in my whole body. I wanted my body back.

So once again, I’m launching a plan to wean. I’m actually considering trying to be completely done by the time she’s 18 months, which is just over one month away. The last nursing sessions to go will be nursing to sleep at nap and bedtime.

Don’t hold me to this timeline, because we all know I’m a flip flopper. But this is my current goal.

30 Days of Blogging, Day 9

It’s cold again. It’s supposed to go down to  -20°C again tonight, and it’s icy and snowy outside. It’s the kind of weather for family cuddles. The kind of weather where I miss bed sharing with my baby. 

And when your baby has another nasty cough and cold and has to choose whether to breathe through her mouth and trigger more coughing, or breathe through her nose and not get enough air to her lungs, it’s really, really hard to withhold nighttime nursing. Nursing is the throat soothing cure-all that helps her sleep through anything. 

So about that night weaning we started… the night weaning has gone out the window during my shift. While my wife is on call for nighttime wakings (from bedtime till 1am), Avery goes back to sleep with nothing more than my wife poking her head through the doorway and saying “go back to sleep.” During my shift, I’ve started nursing her again. It’s how she sleeps well through being sick. It’s the only way to get her back to sleep during her bouts of middle-of-the-night insomnia (even during my wife’s shift). 

So weaning is a discussion topic for another day (or month, or year….).

On a related note, Avery LOVES peppermint tea. It’s just a dried mint leaf from our garden steeped in hot water. And when she’s sick, a little dollop of honey is a great throat soother. 

Night weaning log – night 1

7:00pm Bedtime was easy and peaceful. It hasn’t been that way in a while. No pinching or climbing on me, no back and forth wanting rocked, fed, rocked, fed… Just a calm nurse to sleep after reading a couple of books. It took 20 minutes total instead of the hour it has been taking lately. A perfect final bedtime routine before a night of changes. I don’t want to move her to the crib. This is the last she’ll be calmly attached to me till morning. I’m nervous about the night ahead, but I’m ready for battle. I think.

9:40pm My wife rocked it. Got her back to sleep in a couple of minutes flat. No tears.

10:30pm Wife rocked it again. Fast, no tears.

12:15am Wife wasn’t waking up, so I gave it a shot. She cried half heartedly for milk for about 5 minutes and then fell asleep on my shoulder. I failed at the first attempt at transferring her to the crib, but got her down within 15 min.

12:35am Just got back to bed and she woke up again… Clearly my transfer wasn’t that smooth. Sent wife in. 45 minutes of intense screaming for mama. I had my fingers in my ears. The cats were crowding my face, worried about her. Finally my wife won the battle and got her to sleep on her shoulder. Transfer to crib took another half hour – Avery didn’t want to let go of the warm body. I feel bad for my wife. I know this is as hard on her physically as it is on me emotionally. Avery weighs 28 pounds now and fights us with every last ounce when she’s upset.

Crying. My shift. I chug some juice for energy and prepare myself. I check the time –

6:00am.

She slept through till morning! I have gotten up to nurse her back to sleep at LEAST twice between midnight and 6am every night for her entire life, but after being refused milk and refused mama through all those tears, she may be getting the hint…


*side note: the behind the scenes of our night weaning process included 2 weeks of cutting out all random, on-demand feeds through the daytime. I said “no milk right now” and offered water, food, or hugs instead of milk. The purpose of this was to get her used to having me call the shots. The only daytime feeds she has had for 2 weeks have been structured at wakeup, naptime, and bedtime. It has been easy to distract her with the alternatives during the day. To be honest, I’ve missed the random snuggles in the middle of play time or after a tantrum when nursing would calm her and make her so cuddly. But I’m hoping the sacrifice helped to make the transition more gradual and palatable. 

There were also some subtle changes to nursing through the night in the two weeks leading up to now. I worked on the Pantly Pull-Off (from the book, No Cry Sleep Solution) and tried to get Avery to finish nursing and fall the rest of the way to sleep rocking, instead of sleeping on the boob. For several nights, I tested whether a cuddle would suffice to replace milk at wakeups (but never said “no milk” because I was saving that for the actual weaning). 

Weaning from nighttime breastfeeding… the excruciating decision

I have loved breastfeeding. Avery has loved it. We have had such a lucky go of it. I always imagined I’d continue on-demand breastfeeding until Avery self-weaned. I was prepared to continue beyond her second birthday. But here I am, with a 15 month old, starting down the path of slowly weaning. For now I intend to keep 3 nursing sessions a day – wake up, nap time, and bedtime. But everything else is coming to an end.

The biggest influence was a combination of trying to protect my wife’s feelings (hear me out) and a hope that weaning would improve sleep.

Protecting my wife’s feelings is a complicated issue. My wife supports breastfeeding. She understands its benefits to the baby – to a point. She understands it as having nutritional benefits, but doesn’t agree with using it for comfort beyond a certain age. That age has turned out to be 1 year. She’s a big proponent of teaching independence.

However, it’s more than just my wife’s opinions at play here. It’s her emotions. It’s the fact that she struggles to feel like an equal parent. And because that is such a sensitive subject in families like ours – where one parent is genetically related and another is not – I feel the need to adjust my natural inclinations for mother-baby bonding and open up our bond to include my wife. I need to take some responsibility for bringing my wife into the loop, and for us, at this point in time, that means reducing MY importance as a parent over and above my wife. The only way I can think to do this is to slowly start the weaning process.

This whole idea came about because of night time routines. My wife wants to help out when Avery wakes a thousand times a night, but Avery would hit her in the face and scream and call for mama (me). She knew that as soon as I entered the room she’d get to nurse back to sleep. I was a human pacifier. I was ok with that. But I was preventing my wife from being able to pacify her.

More than that, I was exhausted and NEEDED my wife’s help at night. For the last 3 weeks I had felt nauseous from exhaustion to the point of not being able to eat dinner. Some days I’d just lay on the floor while Avery climbed on me and I’d feel like such a useless parent. I knew things needed to change. I had hoped they’d change on their own, but I couldn’t wait it out any longer. While it used to seem attainable to get up all night with Avery until she figured out how to sleep on her own at 2, or even 2 1/2 years old, I just couldn’t stomach the thought of being this exhausted for that much longer.

So my wife and I came up with a plan. It’s a gentle sleep training method that works for both of us – hopefully all three of us. Phase one is to eliminate nighttime feeds, cold turkey. I will still nurse her to sleep at bedtime and nurse her during morning cuddles in our bed anytime after 5am. I am NOT ready to completely wean. These feeds are very important to me.

My wife will take wake up’s up till 1am, I will take 1 to 5am. I will wear a crew neck shirt (wish I owned a turtle neck right now…). We will rock her back to sleep. No milk. We will offer her water if she is persistently asking for milk.

Phase two is about teaching her to fall asleep on her own, no rocking. I’m not ready to get into that yet. It’s too overwhelming. But this is our starting point. My hope is that she’ll have less reason to call us in when she wakes when she knows she won’t get milk.

Just as I documented the floor mattress adventure in a daily log, I’ll document the night weaning process here for anyone who wants to follow along (and offer support!).

At the time of publishing this we’ve already completed one night of this new program. I’m delaying posts by a day or two so I have time to process everything.